Little Big Cheaters: How the Minnesota Twins Almost Stole a Wildcard Berth
The year is 1994. The Seattle Mariners ended the season on a 4 game losing streak allowing the Minnesota Twins to force a 1 game playoff for the wild card1.
Twins owner, Billy Heywood fired their manager mid-season. Instituted himself as manager because he couldn’t convince Whitey Herzog to take the job. Then proceeded to bench one of the Twins best players, Lou Collins, down the stretch simply because Lou was dating Heywood’s mother.
The Twins undoubtedly did not deserve to be there. Sometimes that’s how baseball goes. The Mariners, clearly the better team had two future hall of famers to the Twins entire roster of players who don’t even show up in fangraphs.
Despite Ken Griffey, Jr. piling up two singles and a homerun through 9 the Twins were able to force extra innings. Let’s take a look back at that bombskie real quick.
Enter the 10th inning. Griffey draws a walk setting himself up to run wild on the base paths. Mics even catch him proclaiming that he’s going to take second, third, and maybe even home.
After initially throwing to first to keep Griffey close. Twins pitcher, Jim Bowers steps off again and fakes a throw to first base. Clearing in violation of the balk rule.
Let’s take a look at the full play first.
This is when things get crazy and outright illegal under the official MLB rules.
Let’s start with the balk rule. Under rule 6.02(a)(2) it is a balk when, with a runner on:
The pitcher, while touching his plate, feints a throw to first or third base and fails to complete the throw;
Some may argue that Bowers stepped off the mound and wasn’t touching “his plate” anymore. Well let’s hop down to rule 6.02(a)(3) for further clarification:
A pitcher is to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base and is required to throw (except to second base) because he steps.
So we definitely have a balk. But where this play really goes off the wall is when you realize that not only did the Twins get their bullpen to go along with the trick. But they colluded with the ballpark staff to further deceive the base runner.
Look at this subtle look from the usher.
Ok, the guy just happened to adjust his hat really suspiciously right before the play. That happens. It’s a coincidence, you say. Well, allow me to present exhibit B.
The usher clearly picks up his chair and gets out of the way as if a ball is hurtling towards him.
Meanwhile, Griffey having dove back into the bag doesn’t see that the ball wasn’t thrown. Now, Griffey should have picked up his base coach, but he’s rubber-necking to see where the ball is the whole play. That does not excuse the Twins actions. This play is clearly not in the spirt of the game.
Luckily for the MLB, physics and the Griffey bailed the MLB out of the no-call with a bad hop and one of the best game ending catches of all-time as Griffey climbed the wall to take away a potential walk-off homerun.
Ken Griffey, Jr. once again proving to be among the greatest baseball players of all time.